You may know Ben Fraternale as an icon of the instant photography world through his YouTube channel In An Instant. But what you may not know is that he has also been rocking the sprocket photography game, ever since he got his hands on our Sprocket Rocket 35 mm Film Panoramic Camera.
We wanted to learn just how deep he's dived into this realm, and how he's been enjoying the Sprocket Rocket. Check out what he has to say, and make sure to watch his tips and tricks below.
Hi Ben! It’s great to have you back in our Magazine. How has your creative life been treating you these days?
It’s my absolute pleasure to be back, I missed you dearly. The wide world of photography has been truly delightful of late. Thanks to our homies at Pfizer I have had the great pleasure of hanging with many artists and film friends from all over the world who have continued to enrich my appreciation for all manner of mediums, from tintypes to 110 film! I adore photography in its most essential form, but the people who comprise this community really make my heart hit the high notes.
What sparked your interest in sprocket photos?
Last year a few film friends I only knew through Instagram broached the idea of going to Cape Cod together. Traveling to a peninsula to meet strangers with virtually no way to escape? What could go wrong? It turns out nothing, it was amazing, and my now close bud Sunny brought his new teal Sprocket Rocket along for the trip. We had it with us the whole time, but we hadn’t cracked it open until the final day. On our drive home, we decided to live, laugh, and love by loading the Rocket with Portra 400 and just see what happens! We reconvened when the roll came back from the lab to toss it on the scanning set up. Our eyes lit ablaze when we converted the negatives. No joke, we were leaping around like 5 year olds screaming (we get easily excited, but this was warranted). Probably a week later I had a Sprocket Rocket of my own!
Beyond the sheer curiosity and cool aesthetic of full-emulsion sprocket shooting, I particularly love the almost-anamorphic vibe of the images. I grew through photography as a hybrid video director/photographer, so the wider aspect ratio and quirks of anamorphic lenses were something I always loved working with. This gives me that same sensation in a minimalist photo tool, activating my framing instincts I developed through working in “widescreen” filmmaking.
How did the Sprocket Rocket camera earn a permanent spot in your collection? Any features you want to highlight?
The most incredible thing about this camera is that it punches above its weight, literally. It’s extremely light and takes absolutely darling images. With that compact size and small footprint, I never go on a photo excursion without it tucked somewhere in the bag. I think what can be so particularly wonderful about some Lomography cameras is that they accomplish a photographic specialty in compact form (fisheye, sprockets, etc). These stylistic methods would otherwise require cumbersome, expensive equipment. Knowing I can always “keep that thang on me” for the moment a panoramic scene strikes brings me great creative joy and freedom!
I also love the simplicity of the camera - most gear I carry around is highly manual, requires careful metering, etc. With the basic cloudy and sunny settings, and a knowledge of the latitude of what film is inside, I can casually involve this camera in most shooting situations with true ease.
You’ve paired quite a range of film stocks with this camera. Which one(s) did you love the look of?
From Delta 3200 to expired Elite Chrome 200, I’ve run quite the gamut of stocks through this bad boy, but one in particular always felt “right.” CineStill 800T is one of my favorite 120 films, but I’d rarely used it in 35 mm until the Sprocket Rocket entered my life. To my earlier point about my filmmaking background, using a cinema stock in this aspect ratio and including the sprocket holes just aligns so perfectly for me. It’s certainly not the cheapest option, so I often roll with a consumer 400 speed film, but it always clicks just right when 800T is inside.
If you could describe the Sprocket Rocket in three different words, what would they be?
BIG FOR BUSINESS.
Is there anyone specific you’d recommend this camera to? Any advice for them?
I highly recommend this camera to travelers and explorers. The portability factor makes it an easy companion to any voyage and always comes in handy when a big scene enters your field of view. From portraits to landscapes, it gives you something different to play with than your honking 120 camera or traditional 35 mm setup. I’d offer a couple words of advice for my fellow adventurers.
Protect her: While infinitely portable, don’t just shove this thing around in any slot you can find in your bag. The shutter can accidentally fire, the back could open, or you could damage the Normal/Bulb switch. Your Rocket will treat you right if you do so in return!
Mind your stock: With a fixed shutter speed and two aperture settings, it’s important to venture with a solid idea of what light or conditions you may encounter. Hazy day? Throw some 800 speed inside. No idea what conditions will be like? Can’t go wrong with a flexible 400 speed film you can push in development!
Get close: It’s easy to think of the Sprocket Rocket as a vista-soaker, a panoramic wonder for broad landscapes. While it is amazing for that, it’s also very dynamic for closer subjects. Being able to focus as close as 2 feet and with such a wide lens, you can craft unique compositions not possible on virtually any other camera. I often approach a scene thinking further is better, only to realize I can get shockingly close to a foreground subject while retaining a lot of elements surrounding it.
What can we expect next from Ben Fraternale?
Big things are coming soon! As I’ve worked harder and harder to produce as much art and video content as possible, new opportunities have allowed me to transition some of my professional work into this analogue industry. I am so excited for the next chapter which will continue to bring me closer to the people who make this world tick. I can’t say much more at this time, but I’m forever grateful for this community and excited for what’s in the pipeline!
Interested in sprocket photography? Get started with our Sprocket Rocket 35 mm Film Panoramic Camera.